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Eight arrested in bribery probe at Murdoch's Sun

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's top-selling newspaper The Sun was in crisis Saturday after police arrested five of its journalists over bribery allegations, but owner Rupert Murdoch vowed to keep publishing the tabloid.

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) official, a member of the armed forces and a policeman were also arrested over allegations that journalists paid officials for information, police said.

Publisher News International said Murdoch had given a "personal assurance"

that The Sun would not face the same fate as its sister paper, the News of the World, which he closed in July amid a scandal over phone hacking.

The tycoon will travel to London to meet with journalists, a person familiar with the situation told AFP, without saying when.

The arrested Sun journalists were deputy editor Geoff Webster, picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker and reporter John Sturgis, News International said.

In an email to staff, News International chief executive Tom Mockridge said the company was facing its "greatest challenge".

"You should know that I have had a personal assurance today from Rupert Murdoch about his total commitment to continue to own and publish The Sun newspaper," he said.

Mockridge said he had also written to Britain's police watchdog to "seek clarification" about the independence of the police investigation.

The tabloid's editor, Dominic Mohan, said he was "shocked" at the arrests but was "determined to lead The Sun through these difficult times".

The arrests come a fortnight after another four current and former Sun journalists were arrested and bailed over similar allegations.

Scotland Yard said it had now broadened its corruption probe, Operation Elveden, beyond payments to police, to include other public officials.

The five journalists were arrested in dawn raids at their homes in London and nearby areas on suspicion of corruption and of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office, police said.

In the first cases of their kind, an MoD employee aged 39 was also arrested at her home in Wiltshire, southwest England, and a 36-year-old man serving in the armed forces was arrested in the same area.

The pair, reported by Sky News to be an army officer and his wife, were held on suspicion of corruption, misconduct in a public office and conspiracy in relation to both offences. The MoD refused to comment.

A police officer in the county of Surrey, which borders London, was also arrested on suspicion of corruption and misconduct in a public office.

All eight were later released on bail.

Police said they had searched the offices of News International in Wapping, east London, and the homes of those held.

The arrests were sparked by information provided to police by the Management and Standards Committee set up by Murdoch's US-based News Corporation, Scotland Yard and the company said.

The National Union of Journalists condemned the detentions, as well as News International and what it called a "witch-hunt" against journalists.

General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "Journalists are reeling at seeing five more of their colleagues thrown to the wolves in what many sense to be a witch-hunt."

She added: "Once again Rupert Murdoch is trying to pin the blame on individual journalists hoping that a few scalps will salvage his corporate reputation."

Police have now made 21 arrests in the corruption investigation, including Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, and Andy Coulson, the former spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron.

Police have also made 17 arrests in the separate investigation into phone hacking, known as Operation Weeting.

The Sun has become Murdoch's flagship British newspaper since he bought it in 1969, selling around 2.5 million copies a day with its diet of sex and scandal.

The editor of another Murdoch paper, The Times, apologised on Tuesday on behalf of a former reporter who allegedly hacked the email of a blog-writing detective.



英최대 일간지 기자들 또 체포돼

언론재벌 루퍼트 머독이 소유한 영국 타블로이드 일간지 '더 선'(The Sun)의 기자 5명이 11일(현지시간) 정보 대가로 경찰에 뇌물을 제공한 혐의로 체포됐다고 경찰이 밝혔다.

런던경찰국은 이날 새벽 선지 기자들의 자택을 급습해 체포했으며 이들 외에 국 방부 관리와 군 관계자, 경찰관 등 3명을 직권남용 등의 혐의로 체포했다.

부국장급 간부를 포함한 선 기자들은 회사 측이 경찰에 정보를 넘겨준 뒤 체포 됐고 이에 대해 기자들은 사주(머독)에 의한 '마녀사냥'이라며 격앙된 반응을 나타 냈다.

지난달에도 4명의 전ㆍ현직 선지 기자들이 체포됨으로써 회사 존립 여부에 대한 의문이 제기되고 있다.

그러나 루퍼트 머독 소유의 뉴스인터내셔널의 톰 모크리지 발행인은 "머독으로 부터 선지를 계속 발행할 것이라는 확고한 의지표명이 있었다"고 밝혔다.

선지 기자 체포는 작년 7월 영국의 정계와 언론계, 경찰을 충격에 빠트린 전화 해킹사건과 관련해 불법적인 취재 관행에 대한 광범위한 조사가 진행되고 있는 가운 데 나온 것이다.

전화 해킹사건 여파로 뉴스인터내셔널이 발행해온 뉴스오브보더월드는 폐간됐다 .

지날달 경찰에 체포된 선 기자들은 정직 조치됐으며 이번에 체포된 기자들도 같 은 징계를 받게 될 것으로 보인다.

기자들의 정보는 머독이 소유한 각종 언론사를 망라하는 '뉴스 코퍼레이션' 내 부의 관리ㆍ규정위원회가 경찰 측에 넘겨준 것으로 알려졌다.

이 위원회는 전화해킹 사건 후 뉴스코퍼레이션의 명성을 회복하기 위해 진상조 사 임무를 부여받고 구성됐다.

영국기자노조의 미셸 스태니스트리트 사무국장은 "머독이 또다시 회사 명성을 살리기 위해 기자들을 희생시키고 있다"고 비난했다.

영국경찰은 부패혐의에 대한 수사에 나서 뉴스인터내셔널 전 최고경영자 레베카 브룩스, 데이비드 캐머런 총리의 전 공보책임자 앤디 쿨슨을 포함해 21명을 체포했 다.

이와 별개로 폰 해킹사건 수사로 17명을 체포했다.

지난달에 이어 잇따라 기자들이 체포되면서 위기를 맞은 선지는 섹스와 스캔들 기사를 주로 다루는 타블로이드 신문으로 발행부수가 영국에서 가장 많은 250만부에 달하고 머독이 1969년 매입했다.